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Obituary: Terence Bayler

Terence Bayler in a promotion shot from The Right Honourable Gentleman at the West End (1964)

Terence Bayler had a screen and stage career of more than 60 years marked by versatility and variety. A familiar face on television screens in the 1970s and 1980s, he was a regular in the West End, was seen at the National Theatre and enjoyed something of a cult following for his appearances in Doctor Who, Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the Harry Potter film franchise.

The son of a stagehand, he was born in Wanganui in New Zealand’s north island, where student and amateur dramatics led to a lead role in the country’s seminal 1950 film Broken Barrier. Depicting the relationship between a white boy and a Maori girl, he was later featured on a postage stamp commemorating the centenary of national cinema.

Bayler came to the UK in 1950 with a scholarship that combined training at RADA and a degree in the history of theatre from London University.

Early professional appearances included tours with the Elizabethan Theatre Company in productions of Twelfth Night and Richard II directed by Peter Hall (1953) and with Frank H Fortescue’s Famous Players (1954).

After spells with rep companies in Leatherhead and Birmingham, Bayler made his West End debut in Hubert Gregg’s Villa Sleep Four at the Strand Theatre in 1960. His breakthrough came the following year in Ira Levin’s Critics Choice alongside Ian Carmichael at the Vaudeville Theatre, with The Stage hailing his performance as a phoney intellectual doctor as “one of the most convincing, vigorous and inventive comedy studies of the year”.

Terence Bayler
Terence Bayle. Photo: Peter Simpkin

Bayler returned to the West End in 1964 appearing with Anthony Quayle, Corin Redgrave and Anna Massey in Glen Byam Shaw’s production of The Right Honourable Gentleman at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

He worked again with Quayle in a revival of Lady Windermere’s Fan at the Theatre Royal, Brighton before taking over the role of Giles Ralston in The Mousetrap at the Ambassadors Theatre in 1967.

In the early 1970s, he divided his time between appearances with the Prospect Theatre Company (notably in King Lear, played by Quayle and directed by Timothy West, and Love’s Labour’s Lost) and recording music hall songs for a 26-episode American television series hosted by Alistair Cooke.

Bayler ventured into fringe theatre, too, with Portrait of Dora at the New End Theatre in Hampstead (1979) and The Weavers at the Roundhouse (1980). He was also seen at the National Theatre in Pinero’s The Magistrate (1986) and in Coriolanus at the Young Vic (1989).

Having taken over the role of the narrator in the second year of The Rocky Horror Show (King’s Road Theatre) in 1974, Bayler made a successful return to musical theatre a decade later in Chichester Festival Theatre’s revival of Oh, Kay!, PG Wodehouse’s collaboration with George Gershwin.

He was subsequently seen in Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall’s Budgie (Cambridge Theatre, 1988) and played Colonel Pickering to Maximilian Schell’s Henry Higgins in Frank Dunlop’s 1993 European tour of My Fair Lady, during which Bayler met his second wife, Valerie Cutko.

Having made his television debut in 1955, his many credits included two appearances in Doctor Who (with the first Time Lord William Hartnell and his regenerated doppelganger, Patrick Troughton) as well as parts in Peer Gynt, Upstairs Downstairs and as Lord Kitchener in the controversial BBC series The Regiment (1973).

Bayler’s association with Monty Python began when he appeared in Eric Idle’s Rutland Weekend Television (1975) and Beatles spoof The Rutles (1978).

Idle was instrumental in casting Bayler as Gregory in Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) and later also cast him in his first stage play, Pass the Butler (Globe Theatre, 1982). Other Python-related projects included Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits (1981) and Brazil (1985).

Notable film roles included Macduff in Roman Polanski’s Macbeth (1971) – his final fight scene was judged one of cinema’s top 10 duels by Time magazine – and the ghostly Bloody Baron in Harry Potter and the Philos-opher’s Stone (2001).

Terence Bayler was born on January 24, 1930 and died on August 2, aged 86. He is survived by his second wife, the actor Valerie Cutko, and by two children from his first marriage.

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